Hundreds repatriated to Zimbabwe from SA

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…distressed citizens trek to uncertainty back home

Diana Chiyangwa

Pretoria – Martha Madamombe clutches a clutter of her belongings on one hand and her playful toddler on the other as she listens attentively to the names being called out by a Zimbabwean Embassy official at Magnolia Dell Park in Pretoria.

Madamombe has decided to leave her Pretoria base and head home taking advantage of a repatriation programme that is being facilitated by the chief executive officer of Big Time Strategic Group, Justice Maphosa. The Zimbabwean born businessman contributed towards the cost of hiring buses, personal protective gear to use when in quarantine centres in Zimbabwe. He teamed up with the Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Thousands of Zimbabweans like Madamombe have decided to return home as they are struggling to make ends meet on the back of a nationwide coronavirus induced lockdown.

The lockdown has forced businesses to close since March and most workers are in their second month without any income. Worse off are those who are in the informal sector like Madamombe who can no longer sell her wares because they are forced to stay indoors.

However, the situation has become unbearable as she cannot pay rentals and feed her three-year-old daughter.

A woman awaits her turn to board a bus. Credit Diana Chiyangwa.

Like Madamombe, Khulekani Ndlovu (24) from Bulawayo, is also one of the 400 people who gathered at the embassy in Pretoria on Friday to awaiting a chance to travel back home.

Ndlovu lost his job as a part time painter and can no longer sustain the life in South Africa.

He told NewsWorth that he responded to a call on Facebook and submitted his name for repatriation.

“When I saw post on Facebook about Zimbabweans who want to be repatriated, I wasted no time and applied,” Ndlovu said.

Some say there is no place like home but this may not be entirely true for thousands of Zimbabweans based in South Africa who have been forced to return home due to the prolonged Coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdowns.

However, this is not to suggest that they have better prospects back home where apart from the lockdown, unemployment is at its peak.

One woman who refused to be named for fear of retribution said she had no option than return home.

“I know that life is difficult back home with misgovernance, unemployment, corruption, a poor health delivery system and other ills and vices; but Zimbabwe is my home. Where else can I go,” she quipped?

“I had accumulated household property in the last two years that I have been here but I have been forced to give most of it away because I cannot transport it and no one is prepared to pay any money for it.”

The faces at Magnolia Dell Park told a story of despair as the travellers pondered what awaits them back home while they are also relieved to be returning home.

Zimbabwe is facing a deep economic crisis with the Emmerson Mnangagwa led government proving to be clueless on how to redeem the country from the doldrums.

A nurse from the International Organisation of Migration screens a traveller before she boards a bus to Zimbabwe. Credit Diana Chiyangwa.

Millions are facing starvation and it seems the problems are just about to worsen with more people in the Diaspora returning home. This means the little foreign exchange that had been trickling in, especially from South Africa, through both the formal and informal channels is fast drying up.

South Africa has been on lockdown since March and most of the economy has been closed. This has left the majority of workers in dire straits without income.

The situation has also been worsened by the fact that a good number of Zimbabwean based in South Africa are not formally employed and have failed to access unemployment grants because they do not have documentation.

This has left the majority with no option but resort to returning home.

While others are relying on food aid programmes, others have resorted to returning home. This has been motivated by South Africa’s Employment and Labour minister Thulasi Nxesi’s statements that once the lockdown ends, his department would implement strict measures prohibiting the hiring of foreign nationals especially in restaurants, hotels, security companies, construction and domestic workers. Nxesi said this in parliament and said the sectors had many foreign employees than the local citizens.

Travellers load luggage onto a bus trailer. Credit Diana Chiyangwa.

The IOM team conducted the pre-embankment medical check and distribution of Covid19 information sheet for IOM travel. IOM’s Chief of Mission Lily Sanya, explained to the travellers the stringent measures put in place in the quarantine centres in Zimbabwe. Upon embarking onto the buses, Sanya and her entire team provided travellers with sanitisers, gloves and masks.

The Zimbabwean Ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi, witnessed the repatriation at Magnolia Dell Park in Pretoria, from where Harare and Bulawayo bound buses ferried the travellers.

Hamadziripi said there were over 2 600 distressed Zimbabweans in South Africa, and called for other well-wishers to donate towards the funding of the repatriation of other citizens.

“Those who still want to return to Zimbabwe whether they are self-funding or want to be assisted, they can still contact the embassy or consulates in Johannesburg and Cape Town for assistance” Hamadziripi said.

 

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